By Kristine Sorensen

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Prom is a big night in the lives of young people, but not every high school student gets to experience it. That’s why the Tim Tebow Foundation puts on “Night to Shine” — a free prom for people with special needs.

It’s coming up on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, at the Bible Chapel in Peters Township, which will transform into a ballroom.

Sometimes, the event can even lead to a lasting friendship, like it did for volunteer buddy Sarah Peck and 17-year-old Emily Julian, who has Down syndrome.

“It’s a full-on prom — decorations, tables, dancing, lots of your favorite food, right?” Peck says to Julian, who replies with an enthusiastic “yes” and a smile and laugh.

Julian and Hannah Feda, who also has Down syndrome, both attend Montour High School. They were thrilled two years ago to be paired with another set of friends — Peck and volunteer buddy Melissa Zeitler, who was paired with Heda. The four will be attending “Night to Shine” together for the third year in a row this year, and their friendship is clear. Heda gave her buddy a hug saying, “I love her a lot of times.”

The four started picking their dress from the many available for free at the Bible Chapel where they found many they like.

The event will have about 200-300 people with special needs and more than 600 volunteers. The ladies can get their hair and makeup done, and the boys can get their shoes shined.

Once they’re ready to go, the guests and their volunteer buddies get picked up by a stretch limo for a spin before they walk the red carpet, where paparazzi cheers them as they enter. Once inside, everyone gets a crown or tiara.

“Everybody’s made to feel special. There’s not the one king and queen. Everybody’s kings and queens,” Peck says.

The party is packed with things to do, including dancing, a DJ, karaoke and silly photos. Heda says her favorites are the food, dancing and karaoke. Not only is it a night of fun, for these four ladies, it’s led to a lasting friendship.

“I will sign up every year to do the ‘Night to Shine.’ It is great, and as long as you’re coming,” she tells her buddy, “I’ll be your date. You’re my forever friend,” Zeitler says.

“Night to Shine” is free and open to anyone with special needs ages 14 and older. To sign up to attend or volunteer as a buddy, visit their website here.

There’s another “Night to Shine” event in Cranberry as well, hosted by Cares of Western Pennsylvania. For information on that one, visit their website here.

You can also visit to find all kinds of great information for kids and families in our area.

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